No matter how great your team is, you will always come across situations where you need to deliver bad news. Maybe you received poor feedback about one of your employees from a resident or another caregiver. Or perhaps some changes are being made to the facility or organizational structure that negatively affect certain team members.

Unfortunately, there is no single script to follow that will ensure that it is a productive conversation. That being said, there are lots of pitfalls that can make things a whole lot worse. Set yourself up for success by avoiding the following mistakes – they are much more common than you might think! By doing so, you can avoid similar meetings in the future and potentially even create stronger working relationships.

Mistake #1: Letting your emotions take over  

This might sound obvious, but you must approach tough conversations with a clear and calm head. If you have an angry family member on the line complaining about the care their loved one is receiving, it can be all too easy to carry this same emotion over to your meeting with the employee. Doing so only increases the likelihood that they will see this as a personal attack and become defensive. By keeping the conversation professional and fact-based, you show respect to the team member and better position this as a growth opportunity.

Mistake #2: Trying to discuss over email

It is awkward to deliver bad news. At the same time, you want to make sure that you get your wording right and remember all of the points you need to make. For these reasons, it can be tempting to write things out instead of having either a face-to-face meeting or a phone call. However, this opens you up to a much greater risk of misinterpretation or resentment.

Remember, this must actually be a conversation where the employee can respond and ask clarifying questions. This is not to say that a paper trail is not important – follow up the conversation with a recap of the important points discussed.

Mistake #3: Losing focus of the issue

At the very beginning of the tough talk, state your objectives, and then stick to them. This means not overgeneralizing (“you always do this”). Instead, make sure that you are using specific examples (“Last Tuesday this happened”). This also means making sure that it is clear what the next steps should be. For example, schedule a time to revisit the issue and what changes you expect to see by that time.

You cannot always control how someone will react to difficult news, but you can stay in control of the conversation and keep it as constructive as possible by avoiding the mistakes listed above.


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